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In the summer, sometimes the only way to find relief from oppressively hot outdoor temperatures is by going into an air-conditioned building. For this reason, more and more homeowners are investing in air conditioning of some sort, be it a central air system or a window unit. Before you take the air conditioning plunge, though, you might be wondering what impact your new air conditioner might have on your home’s indoor air quality. Specifically, do you need to worry about air conditioner carbon monoxide?

Air Conditioner Carbon Monoxide

air conditioner carbon monoxideIn the simplest of terms, the concept of air conditioner carbon monoxide doesn’t exist. No air conditioning system in the world can or will produce carbon monoxide. This specific indoor air quality threat, in other words, is not something you will need to worry about just because you start using an air conditioner in your home.

Why isn’t air conditioner carbon monoxide a problem? You can find the basic reason in the science of air conditioning. Air conditioners use three main components—compressors, condensers, and evaporators—which work to convert chemicals from gas to liquid and back again. We won’t delve too much into the technical processes that drive air conditioning, but suffice to say, that the process gradually cools the air and uses that air to cool your home.

Carbon monoxide, on the other hand, is a gas produced by a fuel-burning process. Since air conditioners are never burning any gas or fuel, they are incapable of producing carbon monoxide. Refrigerant and the other chemicals used in the air conditioning process are not carbon monoxide risks.

Carbon Monoxide and Furnaces

While air conditioning carbon monoxide is not a risk, though, the same cannot be said for furnace carbon monoxide. Your cooling system may not burn fuel, but your heating system does. As such, furnaces tend to be some of the biggest culprits behind instances of carbon monoxide poisoning in the United States.

Do note that the vast majority of heating systems do not have a carbon monoxide problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 2,244 deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning in the United States between 2010 and 2015. While that figure is big enough to show that carbon monoxide is a big danger, it’s not so high that you should feel mortally afraid of your home’s heating system.

With that said, heating is undoubtedly the problem. Year over year, significantly more carbon monoxide deaths occur in November, December, January, and February than in other months. In most cases, these deaths are the result of heating appliances that were poorly installed or are faulty or damaged in some way.

The risk of carbon monoxide poisoning should prompt a few different behaviors or strategies from homeowners, including:

  • Inspections and maintenance of fuel-burning appliances: Scheduling annual inspections of any fuel-burning appliances in your home can do a lot to keep you and your family safe from carbon monoxide risks. Remember: any appliance that burns fuel can produce carbon monoxide. This list includes not just your furnace, but also water heaters, gas stoves, non-electric space heaters, and wood-burning stoves. As a general rule, Inspections and maintenance are the best ways to keep these appliances running as they should.                             
  • Don’t use gas tools in the house: Gas grills, generators, power tools, and other similar devices can all also produce carbon monoxide. However, you shouldn’t have a problem with gas-powered tools as long as you remember never to use them inside. You should only use these tools outdoors, in well-ventilated areas. Your car can also produce carbon monoxide, so don’t ever leave it running when parked in the garage. Even if the garage door is open, there is still a risk.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors: Carbon monoxide detectors can help give you an early warning if there is carbon monoxide leaking out into your home. Detectors are not expensive and are well worth the peace of mind they can provide. There are even gadgets and applications out there now that can turn your smartphone into a mobile carbon monoxide detector.
  • Know how to recognize the symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure: Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, nausea, dizziness, fainting, chest pain, abdominal pain, shortness of breath, confusion, and memory loss—among others. If you find yourself developing these symptoms, you should call a technician to check your appliances and see if there is a leak anywhere. While these symptoms could be caused by something else—the flu, for instance—it’s always better to be safe than sorry.


Just because air conditioning carbon monoxide is not a thing doesn’t mean carbon monoxide isn’t something you should be worried about. On the contrary, carbon monoxide poisoning is something that can impact any family and any household. Taking the precautions described in this article will help you protect your family from any risks posed by fuel-burning appliances, tools, or devices.

Valley Comfort conducts air conditioning repair services in the following communities: Santa Rosa, Napa, Rohnert Park, Healdsburg, St Helena, Calistoga and Windsor

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